Pubdate: Mon, 28 Jun 2010
Source: Napa Valley Register (CA)
Copyright: 2010 Lee Enterprises
Author: Alisha Wyman


A Napa County grand jury report on the Napa Special  Investigations
Bureau recommends finding more money and  increasing staffing so the
agency can fight a growing  problem with drugs.

Most of the report centers on the most abused drugs,  such as
marijuana and methamphetamine. It notes a  growing problem of young
people abusing prescription  medications.

"While NSIB directs its efforts and assets toward all  levels of
illegal drug trafficking in the county, an  emphasis has been placed
on methamphetamine since the  drug is so prolific and dangerous," the
report says.

In fiscal year 2008-09, the bureau seized 3,161.5 grams  of
methamphetamine, with a street value of about  $236,467, the report

Agents told grand jurors that prices have increased  dramatically over
the past two years, which has led to  an increase in residential
burglaries and auto thefts.

In fiscal year 2008-09, the bureau, along with agents  from the
California Department of Justic seized 90,000  marijuana plants from
outdoor farms valued at $266  million, the report said.

NSIB officials told grand jurors that 90 percent of  these outdoor
operations are the work of Mexican drug  trafficking

The profits they can make from the drug have incited a  "Green Rush"
to California.

Agents expressed frustration with the gray areas that  medical
marijuana laws have created in investigating  drug trafficking, the
report said.

In total, NSIB agents arrested 143 people in 2009 on  suspicion of
drug-related crimes.

The grand jury commended the bureau's efforts.

"This small group of law enforcement professionals do  an outstanding
job with the limited resources provided  them," the report said.

The bureau is made up of a collection of staff from  county agencies,
with a Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement  commander overseeing the bureau.

The Sheriff's Office provides one sergeant, two deputy  sheriffs and a
secretary. The Napa Police Department  has two-full-time police
officers dedicated to NSIB.

The rest of the positions, including prosecutors, a  probation officer
and police officers, are paid for  with state money.

Calistoga Police Department and St. Helena Police  Department chip in

The grand jury recommended that the bureau's staffing  be increased to
fiscal year 2000 levels and that  additional ways to fund
investigations be found.

Adhering to that recommendation could be difficult for  the police
department during difficult economic times,  said Napa Police
Commander Steve Potter. The  department's first priority is to keep
staffing up in  its patrol division, he said.

Drugs are a growing problem, Potter said. "We as a  department feel
(NSIB) is a critical component of our  department in how we keep our
community safe," he said.

Other recommendations include: emphasizing bilingual  abilities during
agent selection and arming the  probation officer assigned to drug

Bureau Commander Gary Pitkin declined to comment until  after the
county responds to the document.
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